Methodist Conducts Innovative Study on Social Factors that Lead to Illness

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San Antonio's Methodist Healthcare Ministries is using electronic medical records for an innovative project to see if connections can be made between illness and the social and economic condition of the patent, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

HASA (formerly Healthcare Access San Antonio), which has successfully digitized local medical records to make them instantly available to doctors in our increasingly mobile society, says that information can also be used to connect lifestyle, socioeconomic, and housing factors to disease, leading to a healthier community and cutting down on expensive ambulance trips and ER visits

.“We have heard from many physicians that HASA’s ability to provide clinical and up-to-date patient information at the time a patient needs care in an emergency room has become more mainstream,” says Gijs van Oort, executive director of HASA.  “At the same time, research shows that the reasons people seek medical care are not limited to physical or emotional but are more affected by social conditions such as housing, transportation and the ability to eat regularly.”

 Social factors are usually not used in the administering of medical care, but the use of electronic medical records could help, for example, determine whether the reason a person is frequently presenting with a certain condition is linked to anything from a lack of pharmacies in the patient's home area, to whether there might by an environmental cause for the disease.

Heading the project is Dr. Vince Fonseca, HASA's medical director and clinical professor at the UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“A patient who has a breathing problem but is unable to go to the pharmacy for necessary medication, is more likely to let a condition worsen to the point where a 911 call transports them to a hospital. Knowing this likelihood at the time of discharge, allows a care manager to connect this patient to available community services and avoid costly ED visits," Fonseca said.

George Thomas, chief operating officer at Methodist Healthcare Ministries and current chair of the HASA board of directors, emphasized the goal of the pilot project is two-fold. “In the short-term, the collection of this data will give us a different lens from which to examine symptoms, and enhance the quality of care we provide to individual patients,” said Thomas. “However, the long-term goal is to identify the root cause of health issues so that we can enhance the delivery of care at a greater systems level.”

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